I admit I got this to review because my first choice was taken and I’d never heard of this mysterious international collective. Still, anything to help out and prevent handbag fights between the Ave Noctum scribes. Wasn’t too keen on the imagery but nothing to suggest they ain’t sound so… So no idea what to expect at all, really, and the buzzing droning intro of ‘Awakening – Unimaginable’ didn’t give me any clues beyond blackened metal…. And then the vocals come in, growled and malevolent and the riff slowly pounds itself out of the speakers. And kinda…

Ok, wow. Wow.

It picks up speed, hustling us swiftly into a wonderful, atmospheric place. It might sound odd but take the vocals of Destroyer 666 and some of their melodic feel minus the NWOBHM flourishes of late, add in a cloak of Immortal around At The Heart Of Winter and you are somewhere there abouts. This is so bloody immediate, pulsing and pounding and damned catchy it’s…First song and I wish I had hair to windmill. This is black metal for headbangers. This is the kind of thing that the Twilight Of the Gods album brought to the table. Follow up ‘Lexi-Con -Radical’ is just as good, upping the D666 feel and with a melody that reminds me of some of the Finnish sounds. It dives into some glorious, dark and majestic riff clouds, like black wings enclosing you as you ride through a storm. Like the riffs, the drumming is utterly relentless, a total battery attack as the gloriously fluid riffs roll over you.

No idea who these guys are but, fuck they know what they’re doing. This isn’t just good it’s bloody exceptional. This is D666 ‘Defiance’ exceptional.

We get little passages of acoustic picking on the intro of ‘infection – Sensible’ when a melody that squirms in my belly as beautifully as anything Sargeist have done rises and just carries me off. ‘Harrowing the Sane – Popularisation’ is a glowering, blackly cynical song, one that breathes down your neck with intent. It rises into a musical passage that is pure pagan metal fist clenching glory.

A little reading around and one interview I tracked down shows the band to be fascinated by history. History Is Written By The Victors, We Are the Voice Of The Dead, the band proclaim and they seem to have a particular interest in Russian and Eastern European history (not that shocking considering the nationality of some members) and they have explored Stalin before now, finding him fascinating whilst absolutely recognising his monstrous nature which at least shows they have their eyes open and are aware of the pitfalls they dance around. Lyrically adept in English, surging on that obsessive line, they are not easy I guess but their lyrics that I have read seem at least interesting rather than suspect even to one as wary of subjects that approach politics yet still seek to avoid spouting them as I am.

‘Ossification – Law’ adds in more of that Finnish touch, a little hint of the gothic too, dare I say. Just something lurking in the folds. Whatever it is another blast of driving dark metal. Closer ‘Ashes – Norm’ has an eerie feel to it, a strange repeated note sending shivers down my spine, hints of early the Black League and the kind of song D666 often place at album end. Magnificent.

I am taking them at their word. Intelligent yes, and so incredibly adept musically and enthralling I am shocked no one has ever even mentioned them to me before.

If you love dark music, black metal with driving riffs and great black gouts of melody without pulling punches, if you like older D666 and Immortal and rousing pagan metal sounds then give this strange collective a listen. Because this album is frankly stunning.

(9/10 Gizmo)